Any Answers?

February 11, 2005

When I was in junior high school, one of my teachers, Mr. Lankey, decided to teach a class one day on the impending nuclear holocaust. At that time the United States and a funny bundle of formerly disorganized areas functioning as a single supremely disorganized area known as "the Soviet Union" were competing against each other to see who could blow themselves up in the most spectacular way. Even in those days when technology was so primitive that people thought "Pac Man" was fun there was enough nuclear weaponry in the world to wipe out all traces of human civilization at least sixteen times. The only living thing that could survive, we were told, would be the cockroaches. And Keith Richards. There was an important lesson in that: don’t do drugs, or, like Keith Richards, you’ll end up hanging out with cockroaches.

At the end of the class Mr. Lankey, as always, asked, "Any questions?" It was important to think of questions, mainly because many of us had bets going to see whether we could divert Mr. Lankey on to the subject of full frontal nudity in movies twice in one week, but also because we were partly graded on class participation. No one thought of any questions that day, though, mainly because we were all driven to catatonia by fear that the missiles were going to be launched at any moment. I’ve heard the claim that cockroaches could survive a nuclear explosion several times since then and I’ve never questioned it until now. Could a cockroach survive a nuclear holocaust? Supposedly cockroaches are highly resistant to extreme radiation, heat, elevator music, and other things that would kill most other forms of organic life. But if you can squish a cockroach with your shoe, how are they supposed to survive the shockwave from a nuclear explosion? And cockroaches may be more resistant to heat than, say, your Aunt Greta who would insist on wearing a sweater in August if she were sitting on the equator, but they’re not resistant to being set on fire. And if you really think cockroaches laugh in the face of radiation, try putting one in the microwave. (Kids, this is a great science experiment! However as with all our experiments it should only be tried with no adult supervision and only while you’re spending the weekend with your grandparents.)

What was the purpose of telling us cockroaches would survive anyway? Maybe it was to make us marvel at the tenacity of life, or to hold out the faint hope that, even if Homo Sapiens were wiped out a Blatella Sapiens could potentially rise in our place and begin building "Pac Man" machines again. More likely we were supposed to be comforted by the idea that, after a nuclear war, we’d never again have to worry about paying exterminators, spraying deadly poisons under our refrigerators, or buying roach motels, which are ideal for traveling roaches who want to come in, buy large parts of your kitchen, and sell them to roach developers who will build roach condominiums in the wall and under the floor. But I digress. Supposedly roaches are so hardy they’ll even survive without their heads until they starve because, unlike Mike the Headless Chicken, they don’t have anyone to feed them. For those of you who haven’t heard of Mike the Headless Chicken, and I’m speaking specifically to you, Mrs. Weisel of Elsinore, Kansas, whose son bought you a computer but never hooked it up because he realized you’d just use e-mail to send him the joke about the dyslexic who walks into a bra over and over and over again, this was a real chicken who, like King George III, managed to survive several years without a head. People fed Mike by dropping corn down his open throat. Even with heads, though, I realized that cockroaches wouldn’t survive the loss of humans because they’ve become so dependent on the stuff we throw away that they’d either have to learn to produce their own snack chips smeared with week-old bacon grease or die. I’m not sure what we get out of this deal, although I am planning to send all this to Mr. Lankey in the hopes that he’ll change my ‘C’ grade to an ‘A’, because I’m really participating now. If that doesn’t work I’ll put something together about full frontal nudity in movies.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

16 Ways to Enjoy Wal-Mart

1. Get 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in peoples carts when they aren’t looking.

2. Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. Make a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the rest rooms.

4. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in an official tone, ‘Code 3’ in housewares …. and see what happens.

5. Go the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M&M’s on lay away.

6. Move a ‘CAUTION – WET FLOOR’ sign to a carpeted area.

7. Set up a tent in the camping department and tell other shoppers you’ll invite them in if they’ll bring pillows from the bedding department.

8. When a clerk asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask ‘Why can’t you people just leave me alone?’

9. Look right into the security camera; use it as a mirror, and pick your nose.

10. While handling guns in the hunting department, ask the clerk if he knows where the pharmacy is.

11. Dart around the store suspiciously loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.

12. In the auto department, practice your "Madonna look" using different size funnels.

13. Hide in a clothing rack and when people browse through, say "PICK ME!"

14. When an announcement comes over the loud speaker, assume the fetal position and scream "NO! NO! It’s those voices again!!!!"

15. Go into a fitting room and shut the door and wait a while; and, then, yell, very loudly, "There is no toilet paper in here!"

And the best way to enjoy Wal-Mart…


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